Otter Point & Shirley Residents & Ratepayers Association

 

Information Meeting

Held on Wednesday, February 13, 2002

At the Otter Point Fire Hall, 3727 Otter Point Road at 7:30 p.m.

 

Present:            Ken Pungente (President), Arnie Campbell (Vice President), Manfred

Maurus, Mitch Moneo, Wendy Miller, Wendy Morton, Byron Tweedy

Absent:            Lorraine Simrose

Public:            Approximately 66

 

1.      Introduction

 

The President welcomed those in attendance and began by explaining that the intent of the meeting is provide information on the proposed amalgamation process.  Unlike open houses, questions and input from the floor would be received at the conclusion of the overview of the proposed work program.  The President explained that Ed Macgregor, Mayor of Sooke and member of the District of Sooke Amalgamation Steering Committee, is available to respond directly to comments from the floor.

 

2.      Work Program and Decision Path for the District of Sooke’s Proposed Boundary Expansion

 

To explain the proposed amalgamation process, an information sheet on governance restructuring options and an outline of the work program and decision path for the District of Sooke’s proposed boundary expansion was distributed to the floor.  The President noted that Provincial funding for the work program was approved on January 26 and that the cited program dates are approximately three months behind. 

 

The President explained that the work program is separated in the three phases.  The first phase focuses on the District of Sooke’s decisions; the second phase focuses on the electoral area communities’ decisions; the third phase focuses on the provincial process of implementing the local decisions.

 

In phase one, the District of Sooke Amalgamation Steering Committee collects information on the advantages of amalgamating with the outlining districts.  Sooke Council will work with this information and decide if the District of Sooke should proceed to referendum or if the process should cease. 

 

In phase two, a second committee will work with a consultant to collect the information needed by voters in the communities within Sooke’s proposed boundary expansion.  In this phase, voters will decide either to vote to amalgamate and proceed to phase three or vote against amalgamation and cease the process.

 

In phase three, the Ministry of Community, Aboriginal and Women’s Services will implement the decisions of electoral area residents by preparing the necessary supplementary letters patent for review by the District of Sooke and the CRD for approval by Cabinet.

 

However, it was noted that that residents of the electoral area may not be given an opportunity to vote as the work program states, “The Minister has the discretion to order a vote, or use another form of indication of resident’s opinion as an alternative”.

 

Ed Macgregor added that this process was initiated by the Capital Regional District and that the Province asked if the District would enter into discussion regarding amalgamation.  It has been confirmed that Tom Reid of Sussex Consultants has arranged to meet with the Committee on February 21 and that Sooke’s referendum is tentatively scheduled for the first week of June.  It was also noted that East Sooke is undergoing a parallel process.  It was also explained that the idea of appointing electoral area residents to the Committee was to provide Council the benefit of input from the various areas and that those residents, presumably, would then bring information back to the electoral area.  It is assumed that residents of the electoral area will also have an opportunity to vote.  

 

At this time, the President asked for input from the floor.

 

Elaine Cooper explained that she is new to this information and asked that references to the Ben Marr report be explained.

 

The President explained that the Ben Marr report was brought about in response to fighting in East Sooke over land use decisions.  Governance recommendations in the report were presented to the CRD.  Three options were noted for Otter Point, Shirley and Port Renfrew.  The first option is to join Sooke, the second option is to remain status quo, the third option is for Otter Point, Shirley and Port Renfrew to create a separate municipality.  In addition to these options, East Sooke was also given the option of joining Metchosin.  However, at this time, the Provincial government will not entertain the electoral areas going on their own.  If, however, this process proceeds to phase two and electoral area residents vote against joining Sooke, the Provincial government may need to reconsider option three. 

 

Joe Sedgewick noted that he understands that the District is interested in joining with this area.  However, he questioned if information in opposition with joining with the District is available and would OPSRRA be providing this information.

 

The President explained that this information would only be available if the process proceeds to phase two. OPSSRA as a whole will not be part of the phase two committee.  OPSSRA will continue to provide a voice for the community so that the community will be heard.

 

Director Tweedy asked how the phase two committee will be appointed.  It was noted that electoral area residents were appointed to the phase one committee by the Mayor of Sooke.  It is felt that these committee members may not necessarily represent the interests of the community.  It is hoped that the phase two committee will be include appointments from OPSRRA, the Shirley Community Association, the Kemp Lake Water District, Port Renfrew, and the Shirley, Port Renfrew and Otter Point Fire Departments.  Information provided by the consultant can only be credible if there is representation from the community’s political and service organizations. 

 

Both the President and the Mayor expect that a similar committee process will be extended to the electoral area and that the Regional Director will ask for committee representatives from the community.

 

Director Moneo stated that he understands that phase one explores the ramifications of amalgamations from the perspective of the residents of Sooke.  Considering this, Director Moneo asked for clarification of the role of electoral area residents on the District of Sooke’s Amalgamation Committee. 

 

Ed Macgregor noted that the obvious role of the Committee in phase one is to work with the consultant. It was felt that it was important to have electoral area representation to ensure that, if the process proceeds to phase two, that there would be electoral area residents that had been involved from the beginning of the process.  However, it is not assumed that these residents will represent the community in phase two.

 

Director Moneo asked if phase one will examine such things as the effect of taxes and Bylaws on the electoral area communities. 

 

Ed Macregor affirmed that in phase one the financial implementations of  the District joining with the electoral area will be explored including effects on the tax base and fire protection.  It is expected that the Committee will make a recommendation to the Council and that Council will decide if the idea of amalgamation merits further consideration. 

 

Director Moneo noted the financial implementations for the District and the electoral area will differ. 

 

Ed Macregor responded by stating that the District is not attempting to answer questions on behalf of the electoral area and that it is the responsibility of both the District and the electoral area to strive for sufficient information. 

 

Bruce Lemire-Elrose introduced himself as a member of the District of Sooke Amalgamation Committee and confirmed that he was appointed.  He explained that one of the first things the consultant will want to discuss is local issues.  To gather this information,  Bruce Lemire-Elrose asked to meet with the executive of OPSRRA’s executive and has met with the area’s bed and breakfast owners.  In addition to the mandatory information required  by the consultant, the consultant will also study specific information requested by the Committee.  At this time, Bruce Lemire-Elrose asked the floor for their comments including any comments on the proposed boundary.  In addition to the boundary, the consultant will examine the tax base including taxes collected from forest lands and the service base. Again, it was noted that seven of the nine Committee members are residents of the electoral area.

 

Heather Phillips stated that there are many opinions but no information.  For example, what effect will amalgamation have on Bylaws. Which Bylaws will fall under the responsibility of the municipality and which Bylaws will remain the responsibility of the Capital Regional District. 

 

Ed Macgregor explained that a new municipality inherits CRD Bylaws.  A municipal council can then accept or dispose of the Bylaws.  For example, Sooke has contracted the CRD for solid waste disposal and animal licenses.

 

Heather Phillips asked if all four levels of government would remain - municipal, capital, provincial and federal. 

 

Ed Macgregor explained that when an area incorporates the area sheds the regional government and becomes a municipal government.  However, there remains shared services such as SEAPARC.

 

Marnie Williams would like to see that the outlying areas receive a specific number of seats on Council and asked at which phase this is discussed.

 

The President explained that it is his understanding that a ward system is not an option and that there would not be specific representation from any one area. 

 

Director Morton stated that she is afraid of Sooke Council’s trend of removing land from the ARL, listening to every developers’ proposal  and the introduction of questionable new zones.  Morton stated that she is terrified that, if there is a vote for incorporation, Sooke Council will destroy the area within six months. 

 

Kent Jordan asked what effect amalgamation would have on the Kemp Lake water shed. 

 

It was explained that there currently is no protection or control over the water shed.

 

Vice President Campbell noted that it is presumed that a boundary can be extended anywhere westward up to Port Renfrew.  Vice President Campbell asked if it can be assumed that a boundary line will follow the natural boundary lines or if it is conceivable that a boundary line could be drawn in the middle of a district.  If this is the case, would only the residents within the extended boundary area be allowed to vote in phase two. 

 

Ed Macgregor stated that it is assumed that all residents affected will have an opportunity to vote.  However, at this time, he does not know for certain who will be entitled to vote.

 

The President interjected to cite references to boundaries made in the District of Sooke Restructure Study as submitted by Sussex Consultants Ltd. The study states:

 

- Document and summarize the relevant features of sub-areas

- Identify implementation/transition issues and requirements for each subarea

- Identify land use and servicing potential of each subarea

- Identify potential advantages and disadvantages of including each subarea

- Identify general range of likely impacts on properties in each subeara

- Rank each subarea in terms of advantages and disadvantages to the District

- Rank each subarea in terms of potential implementation issues

- Prepare boundary option maps

 

Ed Macgregor advised that the Executive should pose such questions to Derek Trimmer or any contact at the Ministry’s Restructuring Branch. 

 

The President explained that Director Moneo had extended an invitation to the Ministry.

 

Director Moneo explained that the Ministry advised that any requests should be forwarded by the District of Sooke as the process was being lead by the District.  With such comments, it is felt that the electoral area is being left out of the process.

 

David Brown asked who is pushing for amalgamation and who stands to gain financially. The community voted against amalgamation two years ago and now the issue has returned.  It is assumed that Sooke Council is pushing for amalgamation.

 

Ed Macgregor reiterated that the process was not initiated by Sooke Council.  The process was initiated by the governance study.  The Provincial government asked Council if they would examine amalgamation.

 

Director Moneo stated that the Ben Marr report was produced to determine how to rid the CRD of the electoral area.  If the boundary is not extended to Port Renfrew, there will still be remnants of an electoral area.  There will still be Regional Director representation. 

 

The President confirmed that the Ben Marr report was prompted by land use decisions.  A single Regional Director can not make land use decisions.  Other regional representatives are required to sit on land use decision committees.  These representatives do not want to make decisions for areas for which they do not represent.  Taking only a portion of an area does not follow the process recommended in the Ben Marr report.

 

Lanny Bruton noted there are only three governance options in the Ben Marr report for the area.  A couple a years ago there was a meeting with MLA and Municipal representatives that noted more than three options including a district option.  Lanny Bruton asked if the three noted options are the only options available or if  there are other options not noted in the Ben Marr report.  

 

The President explained that he believes the three options noted are the only options available.  A few years ago the notion of a local community council was suggested but nothing proceeded.  Similar to the Sooke local forum, elected residents would advise the Regional Director.  Nonetheless, the elected residents were only advisors; they were not entitled to vote. 

 

Robert Hills asked if the movement for incorporation is unique to Sooke or if the initiative is provincial wide.

 

Ed Magregor stated that he is unaware of any provincial initiative.  It was noted that, upon the incorporation of Sooke, the Province joined the remaining electoral area and the Langford electoral area.  Thus, limiting Regional Director representation to one.  It can be surmised that the current process may not have been initiated if there was still two electoral areas. 

 

The President noted that the ramifications of only one Regional Director was known.  Nevertheless, the Province proceeded with the process.

 

Wayne Fitz asked if the District of Sooke Amalgamation Committee’s study would be public and if there would be public meetings with the consultant. 

 

Ed Macgregor explained that the Committee’s meetings will be public and the Committee’s report will be a public document.  Again, it was noted that the report will not address electoral area questions.  Electoral area questions will be addressed in phase two.

 

The President explained that there will be a public process and public participation.  However, it can be expected that information will be relayed in an open house format.

 

Don Collis affirmed that the Otter Point Fire Department is an outstanding department and asked what would happen to the fire district if the boundary is split. 

 

Roy Anderson asked if the process does not proceed beyond phase one, is there still an opportunity for Shirley, Port Renfrew and Otter Point to amalgamate.

 

The President reiterated that there are only three options available.  However, one could lobby the MLA and the Province for support for this option. 

                             

Ivan Harrison noted that he is fascinated by the concept of one person making land use decisions.  He asked why land use decisions aren’t made through a grass root system and why a local community council system has not been implemented.  In regards to amalgamation, Ivan Harrison noted that he is concerned about becoming more urban and not having proportional representation. 

 

The President explained that there is a committee that advises the Regional Director on land use issues.  Municipal and Provincial bylaws restrict the Regional Director from making a decision by himself.  Unless the boundary is extended to Port Renfew, the land use decision process will continue to be flawed.

 

Heather Phillips suggested that, rather than simply having a yes or no question, the interest in each option could be recorded and that the referendum process could be used to gather more information.  Essentially, this process will effect generations to come. Heather Phillips asked that the community not focus just on taxes.  It is felt that if the community does not organize, decisions will not be made by the community but by the Provincial and Federal government. 

 

The President injected to present a map of the electoral area.  It was noted that Otter Point, Shirley, Jordan River, Port Renfrew and surrounding forestry land is larger than the combined area of  Sooke, Metchosin, Colwood, Saanich, Victoria and Sidney.  It was suggested that perhaps the District of Sooke should be considering amalgamation with the electoral area. 

 

John McCrae stated that the Otter Point Fire Department belongs to the community.  Community funds purchased new trucks in 1991 and 1999.  The Otter Point Fire Department has an excellent preventative maintenance program and the hall is located in the best location.  John McCrae stated that he is concerned that the community’s equipment will not remain in the community if amalgamation occurs.

 

A resident asked if it is possible that electoral area residents may not be given an opportunity to vote. 

 

The President noted that some reports indicate that this is possible because, ultimately, the Provincial government makes the final boundary decision.

 

Ed Macgregor noted that the consultant will just be making a recommendation.

 

Director Tweedy affirmed that, although the current government system is dysfunctional, Otter Point has done quite well.  Otter Point is rural and essentially doesn’t require many services.  Sooke is a bedroom community.  Otter Point is tourism and forestry based.  In response to Bruce Lemire-Elrose’s request for opinions, Director Tweedy asked for a straw vote to note who is in favour of amalgamation with Sooke.

 

The President noted that a vote would communicate the community’s consensus. 

 

A resident affirmed that more information is required.  A vote at this time could weaken the community’s position.

 

Elaine Elrose agreed that more information is required.  That there is a due process.

 

Heather Phillips also agreed that there isn’t enough information.  A vote tonight would be an emotionally based decision. 

 

A resident asked what OPSRRA is doing to get more information.

 

The President explained that OPSRRA is hosting meetings and that OPSRRA is not political.  As requested at its annual general meeting,  OPSRRA is trying to get more information out.  It was affirmed that there will be more informational meetings.

 

Vice President Campbell advised that invitations were extended to the CRD, the Ministry and the area’s government representatives.  All levels of government deferred these requests to the second phase of the  process.  The concerns of the electoral area will be addressed in phase two.  OPSRRA has been told that it is acting too soon.

 

The President agreed.  The area’s MLA was contacted and, although Brian Kerr was unable to attend tonight’s meeting, Brian Kerr mentioned that he is willing to meet with representatives from OPSRRA. 

 

A resident stated that he agrees with comments made by Director Tweedy and advised that the electoral area should have a different consultant than the District of Sooke.

 

A resident advised that financial ramifications of amalgamation need to be explored.  It is not Sooke that is driving this process.  It appears to be a road predestined by the Province.  If financial information is not requested, it will not be forthcoming.

 

Otter Point resident, Dave Gollmer, noted that he has always felt that he has lived in Sooke.  If the process proceeds, what will be the benefits.  Sooke Council’s goal is high density, sewers, business and development.  Dave Gollmer noted that he has heard nothing about the community’s greenbelt and sensitive areas.  He has heard nothing about the community’s trees, beaches and waters.

 

Ed Macgregor noted that Sooke’s Official Community Plan only focuses on the District of Sooke.  Sooke’s local government represents the people of Sooke.  Electoral area issues will be addressed in phase two. 

 

Dave Gollmer asked what pros will be presented to the District of Sooke. 

 

Ed Macgregor noted the electoral area’s tax base, services, fire protection, roads and water.

 

Dave Gollmer noted that the District also requires accurate information. 

 

Ed Macgregor agreed.  Residents of Sooke will also need to be informed electors.

 

Ron Dumont stated that the pros and cons have yet to be discussed.  There have been so many issues within the municipality to discuss.

 

Bruce Lemire-Elrose asked if there is an OPSRRA website. 

 

It was confirmed that OPSRRA does not have a website.

 

The President explained that OPSRRA will continue to hold meetings to assist in information sharing and that there will be OPSRRA representatives at Sooke’s public meetings. 

 

It was noted that the amalgamation review process is approximately three months behind and that it can be expected that the process will speed up.  If the electoral area is not given an opportunity to vote, there will be implications.  The community is entitled to a democratic process. 

 

In closing, the President asked those in attendance to invite their friends and neighbors to the upcoming meetings.  The President thanked the floor for their input and thanked them for coming out.

 

The meeting adjourned. 

 

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